Don't get burned by scammers

Food for Thought

We all get scam calls. Some are ridiculously and obviously fake. Others are not. Some are downright genius. As a non-profit, PBNM receives very few of these calls. Thank goodness, I can think of only a few close encounters with scammers. That said, here’s one I want you to watch out for.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a Jeffrey Hanes offering a donation to PBNM. He knew about our mission, seemed to understand we are a small non-profit, and praised our work. He offered to donate $2,000 to support our programs.

Donations are the lifeblood of non-profits like ours, so when I received an offer from Jeffrey Hanes, I was understandably thrilled. However, it’s crucial to verify the details of such offers. In our case, Jeffrey asked for our mailing address, stating he would send a check by USPS. Everything seemed clean enough. I thought, “We do a lot of work with children in the 6 Million Seeds project, and we don’t charge anything for PBNM membership. This donation will come in handy!”

Two weeks or so later, we did, in fact, receive a check from this person. It came in a tracked and insured USPS mailer. The check looked completely normal. It was printed, watermarked, seemed to be real. The amount of the check was incorrect, however. It was more than double what Jeffrey Hanes initially said it would be. That should have been the big bright red flag! I figured, “Hmm…surely this person would know he is making a check out to PBNM for this amount…”

I deposited the check.

But I am also a painfully honest person. I literally can’t sleep at night if I suspect I have wronged someone, intentionally or unintentionally. So, I emailed Jeffrey Hanes to let him know we received the check and to thank him for his generosity, the check being more than two times the amount he offered. That’s when things started to go awry.

He replied with an email stating that the amount was wrong and requesting reimbursement for the overage.

I contacted our treasurer, and we discussed it. We have an excellent reputation in the community, and we want to keep it that way. So, as a matter of our business integrity, we chose to reimburse the overage. Looking back on it, we should have known, but at the time, we were not even thinking this was a scam.

Well, so much for integrity and honesty. Ours remains intact, but what about Jeffrey Hanes’? NOPE!

It was a scam, and we got stung for $2,500. We reported it to our bank and the local police department. They performed their investigations and tried to pull the money back. Unfortunately, there is no chance of the money being returned.

So…lesson learned.

We will NEVER get caught like this again. $2,500 could have taught a lot of classes, and provided a lot of delicious, nutritious food for kids. I am convinced the world would be transformed if scammers spent their brilliance on making the world a better place rather than lying, cheating, and stealing from others.

So, a word to those reading:

If you hear of anyone in a similar situation, warn them. This scam, which is mostly directed at non-profits, is a nasty one. Don’t fall for it. Also, if you would like to donate to PBNM, we would appreciate it. We are deeply grateful for your support of our mission. Legitimate donations only, please.

Thank you.


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